Clinton Critiques Obama PAC
Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign today accused rival Sen. Barack Obama of campaigning in a manner that "appears to be inconsistent with the prevailing election laws," a statement released in response to this morning's report in The Washington Post that described how Obama's senate leadership PAC doled money out to politicians in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
In January, Obama announced that he would stop raising money for the leadership committee, called Hopefund. But in recent months, Obama has handed out more than $180,000 from the PAC to local Democratic groups and candidates in the key early-voting states, campaign reports show. Some of the recipients of Hopefund's largesse were state and local politicians who have recently endorsed Obama's presidential bid. The fund also spent more than $440,000 on other expenses, including contributions to Democratic candidates in states that do not have early presidential contests.
The Clinton campaign put out this statement earlier today: "It is our understanding that a candidate's campaign is barred from using the candidate's leadership PAC to benefit his or her campaign which is why we shut down HillPAC when Senator Clinton announced her run for the White House. On the campaign trail, Senator Obama is outspoken about his desire to reform the campaign finance system so it was surprising to learn that he has been using his PAC in a manner that appears to be inconsistent with the prevailing election laws."
Obama's campaign struck back, sending out an e-mail with the subject line, "response to another false attack from hillary clinton."
"Whatever happened to the confident front-runner who said she wouldn't attack other Democrats just two weeks ago?" asked Bill Burton, the Obama campaign spokesman.
"The latest personal attack from Hillary Clinton is a completely false attempt to misrepresent Barack Obama's full disclosure of his campaign finances. Senator Obama's commitment to disclosure is one that Hillary Clinton does not share, and until Senator Clinton is willing to make this commitment - by disclosing her White House records, the list of donors to her husband's presidential library, how much her bundlers raise, and releasing her personal tax returns to the public -- she's not really in a position to point fingers at others."
The Obama campaign's campaign finance lawyer, Bob Bauer, also declared that " Senator Clinton's attack is completely meritless. These donations did not in any way violate the law."
The Obama statement did not address a key lingering question about the way the senator's leadership PAC money was used: the fact that during 2005 and 2006 Hopefund raised more than $123,000 from special interest political action committees -- precisely the kind of group whose money Obama has turned away during his bid for president. Some of that money came from PACs run by large Washington lobbying firms. The fund also took money from lobbyists directly. The most recent lobbyist contribution came from Robert Getzoff, who is a registered federal lobbyist for Citigroup,who donated $300 to Hopefund in April.
In a brief e-mail exchange, Burton called the PAC and lobbyist donations to Hopefund irrelevant to Obama's campaign pledge. "Apples and oranges," he said.
Later in the day, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer responded to the Obama campaign's comments on the Hopefund issue. "The Obama campaign's failure to deny that it committed campaign finance violations speaks volumes. Instead of launching irrelevant attacks, Senator Obama should answer a simple question: Did Obama campaign officials direct the Hopefund to make contributions to officials and entities in states holding nominating contests? If the answer is no, they should just be direct and say so."
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